There's quite a clever title and concept behind this one - Future Tense, a text-only PAW adventure, refers to the all-too-plausible collapse of society as values and sensibilities are munched up inside countless computers run by automatons. (At this point in the review I'd just like to say hello to anyone out there in the civil service.)
In this story it's a Dr Fenton Blake who's seen the writing on the wall, or perhaps the curious anomalies in the printout, which moved him to write of his worries for the future in his banned work What Price Progress?
In 2239, when Blake had been quietly gagged for several years already, his greatest fears were realised. The Master Computer attempted to increase efficiency and to eliminate the weakest link in the chain of government - ie the humans - and it set about creating a superhuman race with the collusion of the nuttiest top scientists in the land.
Their first attempts, however, created a whole host of weirdos little better than the bunch they already had, a mutant race of humanoid fruit and vegetables (yes, more civil servants). As the story line goes, these creatures haled the humans who had been devouring their brethren for centuries, and held a particular grudge toward those weedy unhealthy individuals who called themselves vegetarians.
The mutant fruit-and-veg gang broke out of the laboratories and rose up against the western continent of Florabunda; successfully capturing it they renamed the place the Vegetarian Nation. (I do hope you're following this!) The humans, forced from the vegetable plot, congregated in an adjacent continent and formed a political party, the Society Of Human Preservation or SHP. Its purpose: to hold off the threat from the vegetableheads.
In Future Tense you are an agent for the SHP, living in a flat in Silverton, a small city to the north of the eastern continent which has become known as Halfworld.
The first striking thing about Future Tense is its friendly and welcoming writing style, both in the instructions and in the game itself. This contrasts nicely with a rather dire view of the future.
You kick off in your flat, which is known to the government as 202 729 GHS 2184 though you refer to call it home. We soon learn through the well-written and informative location descriptions that you are living on the wrong side of town, where 'Mother Nature has lovingly adorned the walls with a tasteful green fungus'.
As early as the second location we see that the detailed onscreen notes before the game are necessary, as EXAMINE TRENCHCOAT is indeed quite distinct from SEARCH TRENCHCOAT. In Future Tense EXAMINE is used to bring out general information about an object, as a cursory glance would, and SEARCH is reserved for a more probing examination. Also, SEARCH relates to a specific object rather than to the general searching of a location which it gives in some games.
And just to be exhaustive on this topic, I'd like to point out that EXAM by itself won't achieve much ('the laws of physics and the nature of society being what they are, you can't do that' is the reaction) - PAW has been primed here to work on the first five letters, so EXAM! is the shortest abbreviation for us lazybones.
I'll leave you with some hints for the game provided by programmer Christopher (The Red Lion) Ward:
Here's a searching question:
Are you well-equipped?
Because, across the water,
That's where many an agent slipped.
If you think the press is rubbish
You may well be right
But if you're travelling, it will be
A very welcome sight.
Follow the path of the old tin can
And the broken bottle too
Then if you fight the tyrant
A reward will wait for you.
Before you make arrangements
Be wary, walls have ears
And on your journey go prepared
Or risk two promising careers!
Mutant humanoid fruit and veg say
'Humans make us rant!'
And this is true, so ask yourself
'Do I make a convincing plant?'
In true detective style,
Will lead to a revelation
Bringing you closer to Kumber the Vile.
If clearance is required
Remember Kumber's ego
Act like a Kumber groupie
Then up, up, up we go.
Under detailed scrutiny
Your cover will be blown
So organise a bit of chaos
Then you're on your own.
Mystic Software can be contacted at 67 Fergleen Park, Galliagh, Derry, Northern Ireland BT48 BLF.
DIFFICULTY: verses make it a little easier
INPUT FACILITY: sophisticated PAW